2011 census figures suggest a more than projected growth (around 87 million) in urban population from the year 2001 (290 million) to 2011 (377 million). Urbanization and its multiple facets are reflected in the diverse yet unique ways in which our cities and towns evolve, expand and prosper on one hand and on the other become subjected to adversities like poverty, inequality, inaccessibility and discrimination. Where urbanisation in India has shown significant positive linkages with economic growth, with cities accounting for 62 to 63 percent of the country’s GDP in 2009–10[1], the plight of the ones who largely contribute towards this growth, i.e. the unorganized workforce and the urban poor is known reality.

A large proportion of our urban poor workforce, which comprise of domestic help, vendors and hawkers, construction workers, rag-pickers, rickshaw-pullers etc. dwell in informal settlements, slums, resettlement colonies etc. and are generally considered a blotch and burden on the ever developing and beautifying cities. There is a stark difference in the socio-economic and cultural lives of this segment (urban poor) of the population as compared to the middle and upper middle segments, owing to the unequal distribution of resources and services which range from housing and basic services to lack of income and livelihood security. A huge number of studies have been conducted on the socio-economic-demographic conditions of the urban poor and how to address issues of urban poverty, however there are very few studies that have tried to bring forth the significant contribution that the urban poor make in the lives of the city dwellers in general and the city economy in particular. It is important to understand whether the urban poor are actually ‘parasites’ to the city or their contribution to the city is equally important as that of their non-poor urban counterparts.

In pursuance of the same, PRIA with the support of Indicus Analytics, tried to look into this gap through a study conducted in 50 cities across India, to understand the contribution that the urban poor make to our cities. The objectives of the study were as follows:

 Identifying involvement level of the slum population in cities’ economic (including fiscal) and social activities.

  • To measure direct, indirect and induced contribution of the urban-poor population to cities’ economic scenario
  • To understand the shadow impact of non-existence of the urban-poor population in cities,  both quantitative and qualitative

On 15th October 2013, PRIA along with SPARC and FIUPW is organizing a National Consultation on the theme ‘Contribution of the Urban Poor to the City’s Economy’ at ‘Magnolia Hall’ where the findings of this study will be released. We hope to organize this consultation to not only share the crucial findings of the study but also dialogue and deliberate on how this aspect of the urban poor needs to be incorporated in policy discussions in the near future.

[1] Planning Commission, GoI, Report of the Steering Committee on Urbanization, 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017)


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